Rolex as a brand is a complete anomaly to me. Modern steel models are consistently priced higher than gorgeous and rare vintage Rolex pieces in steel, two-tone or gold. Obviously modern pieces demanding a premium is nothing new, but this obsession with new models has left a few pre-ceramic bargains hiding in the shadows of past Rolex production.
As a side note, I advocate buying vintage for a number of reasons. I think it is a great way to get something more unique and special – a birth year model perhaps. Vintage watches have a life and character about them that you would be too scared to beat into your new Hulk (especially having paid $22,000 for it I’m sure). However, the absolute KEY reason for my advocacy is that if we continue to enter the boutique’s breadline, we will continue to wait for allocations and be fucked by resellers.
With all of that said, here are 3 solid vintage Rolex alternatives to the nightmare that is modern Rolex buying.
GMT-Master II Ref. 16710
It’s no secret that the GMT in any format is hot property at the moment. You used to be able to pick up a 116710LN for $8,500 – alas, no longer. Now your best bet for GMT-Master value is a 16710. They come in an array of flavours – from plain to pepsi – all of which are delicious. Admittedly, the bracelets on these references aren’t as solid as the current generation. That being said, if you want an Oyster bracelet on a brand new GMT you’re shit out of luck anyway!
No-Date Submariner Ref. 14060 (Two Line Submariner)
A horological embodiment of pure perfection, the two-line Submariner is the cleanest and most symmetrical offering from Rolex’s sports line in recent history. This is the exact watch I picture when I think of a Rolex. It’s narrower case lends itself more towards a dressier aesthetic, and the lack of Cerachrom bezel makes it significantly less flashy than its contemporaries. This is a watch for all occasions.
Explorer II Polar Ref. 16570
This watch would win most underappreciated at its year 12 social. So much so, that even its more modern twin is far from universally loved to this day. The current Explorer II does sell, but I solely attribute that to it being one of the last vaguely available sports models in steel. It has a Mercedes hour hand, a bright red GMT hand, and lume far brighter than my future. It’s not as clean or simplistic as the 14060, but my god – it is crisp. Check out the extensive coverage on the 16570 at ABTW, where the feature image is sourced from.
In summary, creativity is the key to survival in this crazy market. I have previously advocated for Rolex alternatives, but I am a realist. I understand that it has a brand caché unlike almost any other. It is a status symbol, a mark of success. People will continue to wait on lists and pay resale for these watches. I only hope that a few of you can shake the new-or-nothing mentality and grab yourselves something older, something with more character.
It may not be that new Pepsi GMT that had your loins swelling, but it is so, so much more than that.